A few hundred of us human rights protestors rallied outside of the Chinese Embassy earlier this year. It was actually toward the end of April and I was in Washington D.C. working on promoting human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer's new autobiography "Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Struggle for Peace with China."
Our protest was quite empowering and remains an inspiration for me to this day. I can not reveal more about the embassy's response at this time though later may be able to. In the meantime background can be found at this Congressional Quarterly article link: The Long Arm of China's Secret Police Reaches into the U.S.
But that sense of empowerment feels troubled this week over a man I supported for The Office of The President of The United States. I am saddened that our president has chosen a course of economic policy over moral grounds that are the bedrock for human rights for all people. Leading up to his extended trip to China this week, he has carefully tip-toed to avoid any upset that might cool his reception in Beijing. This cautiousness included declining to invite His Holiness The Dalai Lama to The White House during his recent visit to the States. The White House downplayed the snub alluding to the timing for such a meeting with The Dalai Lama would be better after the president's China visit.
The president has also remained mum regarding human rights abuses against Uyghurs with only a muffled request that the Chinese government show restraint after their July 2009 military offensive against unarmed civilians. The Uyghurs, some have said, are like the Tibetans but without The Dalai Lama. Though in the past year that perception has shifted dramatically as Mrs. Kadeer has demonstrated fearless leadership in her role as president of the World Uyghur Congress, president of the Uyghur American Association, and leading spokesperson for the estimated 20 million Uyghurs worldwide.
The Uyghurs are a 4,000 year-old culture that practices their own unique form of Sufi-Christian-Buddhist-Muslim spirituality all the while embracing nature, dancing, and singing. They are an eclectic group as one might expect after living through millennia along the Silk Road. Just as they traded goods along that road, they also traded ideas. In fact, their spiritual paths could be seen as quite similar to many Americans in that they too celebrate diversity in spiritual beliefs, praising Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed as well as belief systems put forth by Henry David Thoreau and Native American Indians in worshipping Mother Nature.
This Monday the New York Times reported that nine Uyghurs who had been arrested during the July 5th, 2009 massacre were executed by the Chinese government. A responding press release just issued from Mrs. Kadeer's office quotes her: "The fact that Chinese authorities had the audacity to carry out these executions on the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to China displays their utter disregard for international human rights standards. However, Chinese authorities must be held to account for their actions."
Yes they must be. But so must we. Why are we as a nation giving a free pass to Mr. Obama on his avoidance to confront human rights atrocities in China? I am baffled sometimes when I see in the media those stories gushing about how great China is. Gushing about their economic prowess. Gushing about the vast opportunities for the West. Is the media, and that includes us book publishers, going to continue to churn out feel-good stories about vacationing in China? Doing business in China? Appreciating compliant Chinese contemporary authors and artists?
Is it that blatant about capitalistic America that a buck really can buy our silence? Since when did we cave to China or any other dictatorship laying claim to human rights abuses being an internal matter and not to meddle? Since when did the free world stop advocating on behalf of the un-free world? Vital advocacy work on these issues is supported by the vast majority of Americans so why then is there such a chasm from the voice of our president? Mr. Obama is a decent man. We must appeal to his senses that human rights are not reserved just for the privileged born free. To de-link human rights issues from monetary policies with China or any other communist regime, or dictatorship as he has done, is disrespectful.
There are many uncertainties about the future of publishing. But placing our integrity into question can not be one of them. Expose China as the greatest perpetrator of genocide in our day. Expose China's forced abortions. Expose their beatings, murders, and imprisonments of non-Chinese citizens of neighboring sovereign countries like Mrs. Kadeer's Uyghur nation and The Dalai Lama's Tibet.
Shame! Shame! China Shame! C'mon chant it with us. Tell President Obama, Secretary Clinton, your senators and congressmen. Journalists, authors, publishers, and publicists tell your audiences. For goodness sakes, take off the rose-colored glasses. China is a communist dictatorship. What do you think happens under communist dictatorships?